An EDUCAUSE View of Cloud Compute and Storage for Higher Ed

Mon, 2010-11-08 19:03 -- carol

Ithaca, NY Cloud storage and compute services are here to stay for higher education. University and college leaders from campuses in 41 countries gathered at EDUCAUSE 2010 to look for ways to cut costs while amplifying their efforts in 38 sessions that focused on aspects of cloud computing, storage, strategies and services.

What works for higher education is different from what works for business. This was apparent in a 2009 "Point Counterpoint" EDUCAUSE session (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january10/morris/01morris.html) where both the inevitability and downsides of cloud computing, storage, services and access were reviewed by two CIOs with opposite opinions. Issues such as information "branding" and privacy were surfaced as concerns in 2009. In discussions one year later at EDUCAUSE 2010 the focus had moved beyond whether or not cloud computing was a good idea to optimization and implementation methods such as how identity management and web services might work together in the cloud.

Concerns about maintaining the unique character of each university or and college's IT services while guarding privacy were still front and center. However sessions such as "Clouds: From Both Sides Now" (podcast: http://www.educause.edu/blog/gbayne/E10SessionPodcastCloudsFromBot/217792) offered ideas around new kinds of solutions including collective negotiation and sharing best practices for ensuring value from vendors.

No one seemed ready to let go of aspects of their institution's IT requirements in order to make cloud computing work for them. In some cases universities have deployed internal clouds (http://www.educause.edu/E2010/Program/SESS004) to meet specialized institutional needs.

The notion of a single point of entry to university applications, services and resources–a federated identity approach–was discussed at the "Identity and the Cloud" Seminar (http://www.educause.edu/E2010/Program/SEM04A). One participant suggested that scholars might want access to many levels of information in multiple roles. In cases where individuals might not want to access resources through their role at an institution then federated identity management would not work. This is counter to evolving ideas around "free agent" faculty as a way to compete in a global marketplace (Conn, S., "The Steinbrenner Effect," The Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/article/The-Steinbrenner-Effect/124918/).

In an article issued by EDUCAUSE entitled "7 Things You Should Know About Cloud Security" (http://www.educause.edu/Resources/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutCloud/212955) an increasingly common use case involving institutional IT support of sensitive government-funded medical research with human subjects, graduate students, and massive amounts of data is described. This scenario presents an example of how access to secure cloud services bolsters IT systems and services in supporting similar types of projects. The loss of control of data along with outstanding questions regarding cloud reliability and transparency continue to surface in discussions of cloud use by higher education. Contingencies for how to manage migration if a cloud provider goes out of business are suggested as components of the university planning processes.

CIOs are particularly interested in how their institutions IT efforts can support innovative teaching and learning. Ron Yanosky EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Acting Director told an audience of CIOs that "Device world is becoming complicated and changing ways that people interact with the ether." He went on to say, "Mobility will make a consumer cloud meaningful for average people—and the experience of using lightweight devices will make cloud computing real. People will expect to be able to access data anywhere, anytime with any device."

The "any data, anytime" thread that ran through the conference particularly with regard to the use of media, games, social networks and the output from mobile computing in curricula and scholarship to continue to keep students' attention in an era of 24/7 ubiquitous computing. Rich data presents additional management and storage requirements. The on-the-fly ability to increase capacity by usingcloud infrastructure will allow more institutions to engage students in rich media learning experiences.

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